Dear Jack,I've had a growing desire to serve on the mission field the past couple of years, and after God orchestrated an amazing short term trip to China last summer, this seems to be the direction He's leading me in.I graduate this June with a degree in English Lit and I've applied to teach English in Japan where I hope to be able to get involved with a church plant while working. This is mainly to get some experience serving cross-culturally and to make some start-up capital for whatever further training I'll need.However, I'm not sure whether it might not be better to work and get further training at home first before heading out. Will I be "wasting" my year, as I'm not sure to which country I will be making a long-term commitment? Would it be wiser to go through a discipleship/Bible course first? I was also thinking of getting a professional qualification as a teacher. How valuable would a Canadian teaching degree be for missions? Too many options!
I thank the Lord, Camilla, for your call to missions, and I’m glad that you had such a special experience in China that you are encouraged to pursue your goal.
If I had to choose between your working in a church plant in Japan or going through a discipleship/Bible course in Canada (or the USA) first, I think I would recommend the latter.
1) Although being involved in a church plant in Japan could be a learning experience, I think it also could be quite frustrating since you probably don’t speak Japanese. The students you would be teaching would probably not speak enough English for them to understand the Gospel (a truly cross-cultural stretch) and they might not be interested. If you felt called to work in Japan as a career, the experience might be worth it, but I’m afraid you’d suffer a lot of culture shock and not learn much about church planting!
2) Regardless of where you serve, Bible, discipleship, and missions training will be indispensable. You will be busy if you are working and studying, but it would be very helpful to get involved in a church plant (or some kind of hands-on active ministry) in Canada, where you could put into practice the principles you are learning.
3) Having a professional teaching degree would always be useful. More and more countries are requiring individuals who are seeking visas to have credentials that show they have something significant to offer.
If you follow the option of studying in Canada first, I would recommend that you also use your time exploring options of service, talking with missionaries on furlough, reading mission magazines and books on mission, and continually asking the Lord where He wants you to serve Him. Once you make your first decision and have a couple of years’ experience in a mission context you will know more what advanced training would be helpful.
May the Lord guide you, Camille. The Lord knows you, loves you, and wants to guide you (even more than you desire to do His will!).
Blessings on you.